It has been a fascinating year to watch the Orioles. It began with the surprise signing of shortstop José Iglesias to a one-year contract for $2.5 million with a 2021 option worth $3.5 million.
“I think he’s going to have some of his best years with us,” Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said. “For us to have the ability to have a guy like Jose in our system for more than one year is a tremendous plus in our favor.”
Iglesias played in only 39 of the Orioles’ 60 games in 2020, and just 22 at shortstop, because of injuries. He hit .373 with a .957 OPS.
February 15-North Port, Florida
In a briefing with the media at the Atlanta Braves new spring training facility, commissioner Rob Manfred spent most of his time discussing the issue that preoccupied him for most months, the Houston Astros’ electronic sign-stealing scandal.
Manfred, who was testy at times, seemed relieved when asked about the Orioles’ stability in Baltimore.
“I have spent a considerable amount of time with the Angelos family this offseason,” he said. “I think that the family is committed to making baseball as good as it can possibly be in Baltimore. They’re excited about Mike Elias and his team in terms of their ability to make the franchise as competitive as possible.
“…I think there’s a future, and a good future for baseball in Baltimore.”
March 12-Sarasota, Florida
In a span of just over two hours, Manfred announced the cancellation of the remainder of spring training, and the Orioles revealed that outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini underwent surgery for colon cancer.
“The outpouring and love and support has made an extremely tough week so much better,” Mancini said in a statement.
When baseball and other sports paused, no one had any idea when they would return. Mancini shared his thoughts in The Players’ Tribune. He’d need chemotherapy every two weeks until late September.
“If baseball returns in 2020, it will probably be without me,” Mancini wrote.
Baseball started a 60-game season with strict protocols and new rules. There was a 30-man roster to start the season, seven-inning doubleheaders, and extra innings began with a runner on second. The designated hitter was used in both leagues, and the Orioles played 40 games against the four other American League East teams and the other 20 against the National League East to minimize travel. There were no fans in the stands.
The Orioles lost their first game to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, 13-2. Tommy Milone started in place of John Means, who began the year on the injured list because of arm fatigue.
“I was definitely excited,” Milone said. “It’s kind of a weird feeling because obviously there’s no fans there. It’s one of those things where you’re not nervous to be in front of a bunch of people playing baseball. It’s more of an excitement to get out there and face a different team.
“It was a good feeling to be out there and get things started. Obviously, not the way we hoped it would start.”
Milone was traded to Atlanta on August 30th, flew from Buffalo, where the Orioles were playing the Toronto Blue Jays, to Philadelphia, and started for the Braves that night, allowing seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.
In a bizarre scene, the Orioles were leading the Washington Nationals, 5-2, in the top of the sixth inning when a popup shower stopped play. The Nationals Park ground crew was unable to untangle the tarp, and the field was drenched. After a wait of more than two hours, the game was suspended.
Most thought the game should have been forfeited, but it was suspended and resumed five days later. The Orioles won.
“The field was unplayable,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “There’s a rule … if there’s a mechanical failure with the tarp, the game is suspended. They can’t get the field ready to play. That’s what happened.”
The Orioles swept the Philadelphia Phillies in three games and, by August 15, they finished the first third of the season with a 12-8 record, putting them in the playoff conversation.
“I’m pleased with our play so far this year,” Hyde said. “I’m proud of our guys, I think we’re playing hard. I think we’re playing hungry. I think our guys are improving. We’re in a tough division, and this is a tough league, and we have a tough schedule and we’re not going to back down from anybody. We’re going to continue to play hard. We’re going to see where we are at the end of this thing. I’m not looking too far ahead.”
September 9-New York
Rightfielder Anthony Santander, who would be voted Most Valuable Oriole, suffered a season-ending oblique injury on September 4th. DJ Stewart stepped in and hit six home runs in six games and, after the Orioles won three of four against the Yankees and the first of two against the Mets in Citi Field, they were 20-21.
The Orioles were leading the Mets, 6-5, in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded. Rio Ruiz hit a long drive to right that Michael Conforto ran down. His leaping catch saved three runs, and the Orioles would score just three runs in the next 36 innings.
“The play that Conforto made had to be one of the best plays of the year, especially in that spot,” Hyde said.
The Orioles lost 14 of their final 19 to finish 25-35.